Glastonbury Tor hovering above a cricket match on a typical English summer’s day. Photo by Harrias.
What is Glastonbury Tor?
The path running from the Tor down to Glastonbury town.
A tor is a conical hill in the Celtic language and Glatonbury’s rises out of the Somerset plain in England’s south west. It is the scene of a plethora of myths and legends, including the most popular – that it is the site of King Arthur’s homebase, Avalon.
Neo-hippies, Neopagans, New Ageists, party people and music lovers of all sorts, on the other hand, know the area as the site of the legendary, mud-spattered and annual Glastonbury Music Festival which is actually situated in Pilton, some 7 miles away from Glastonbury town, and nothing to do with the Tor, apart from being embedded in the same mud on rainy days!
Currently garnished by St Michael’s Tower – the last remnant of a medieval church – the Tor shows signs of fortified occupation over many hundreds of years, from primitive earth defences in Neolithic times (early Britons are believed to have called the place ‘Ynys yr Afalon‘), through Roman forts to sturdy churches.
One enduring Glastonbury mystery resides in the seven terraces circling the Tor.
Some think that these were constructed for crop development purposes, but this does not explain why the sunless north side – where little would grow – sports the same rings.
Farmers say that grazing cattle can trample out terraces over considerable time but knowledgeable rural folk point out that in that case the rings would be less defined and more more aligned with the contours of the hill.
This is a very small, very old town, dating back to neolithic times.
Both Iron Age and Bronze Age artefacts have been found in the vicinity and records show that a King of England – Edmund Ironside – was crowned here in 1016.
Note that the Glastonbury Festival, perhaps the world’s greatest annual music festival, does not take place here, but in Pilton several miles away.
The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, 7th century. Photo by Nilfanion.